“The University is disappointed by Mr. Silverman’s decision. We strongly disagree with him.
“This is the first time that graduate students — who provide services to their Universities in connection with their studies but for whom, in our view, their status as students is primary — have been held to be employees under federal labor law. The decision is a departure from the law as it has existed for some 25 years. The Regional Director’s decision gives little recognition to the realities of modern graduate education, erroneously deciding a fundamental issue that is a crucial matter of public policy for private universities throughout the country.
“Moreover, we find the decision to exclude many students in the sciences including all those from the Sackler Institute (a Graduate School of Arts and Science program in biomedical sciences) and certain RA’s from the biology, chemistry, physics and neural science departments from the bargaining unit particularly disturbing. Reasonable people will be hard pressed to differentiate between these GA’s and others who would be permitted to vote on whether or not to unionize. Certainly, it would appear that the Regional Director has largely adopted the wishes of the UAW to shape a group of voters to its liking. In their arguments before the NLRB, the UAW has vigorously sought to have these graduate students excluded, when logic suggests they should be included with all others who are similarly situated. At best this is highly puzzling, and at worst it smacks of gerrymandering.
“The University is in the process of determining whether to request review of the Regional Director’s decision by the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington. An important part of that process will be further consultation with faculty members in the various schools affected by the decision. We expect to make a decision in the next week or ten days, when this process is complete. We note, in the meantime, that unless and until it is affirmed by the full NLRB in Washington, the Regional Director’s decision is not a binding precedent for other cases. At some point, an issue of this magnitude will have to be reviewed and resolved by policy makers who sit on the NLRB and, perhaps, by the courts.
“As this process of faculty consultation continues, we remain aware that there is a great deal that unite us in this University community. We are all committed to excellence in graduate education. We all believe that graduate students in general and GAs in particular are important and essential citizens in the University community. We continue to be committed to providing our graduate students with sufficient financial support (including housing assistance) to enable them to afford their graduate education.
“At the same time, it is important to reiterate the basis for the University’s opposition to GA unionization and why we hold views contrary to the ruling handed down today by the Regional Director. I would like to quote from NYU Provost Harvey Stedman’s March 23rd memo to the NYU community:
“‘Philosophically, we believe that GAs are students receiving financial aid, not employees receiving a salary, much as the NLRB has held. The services they provide pale in comparison to the educational aspects of their positions
“‘Additionally, academic issues have historically been the province of the faculty with input from students. We remain deeply concerned about a federal labor law framework that would include the UAW in the consideration of a host of academic matters and academic decision making, as would appear to be the case at UMass/Amherst and SUNY. The UAW’s objections to the implementation of the recent financial aid reforms in FAS designed with extensive consultation with faculty and students may portend how this will manifest itself here at NYU
“‘Moreover, the framework of the National Labor Relations Act puts certain restrictions on speech (see the earlier letter from the University Counsel’s office on the website). Many faculty have said that they have concerns about expressing their doubts about GA unionization for fear of being accused of violating labor laws. Such a chilling effect on speech runs counter to our deepest traditions and is a matter of grave concern in the academy.
“‘The history of graduate education in general and more specifically doctoral education has been marked by the one-on-one relationship between candidate and faculty mentor. We remain concerned about the effect on that relationship, and the interposition of a third party. Moreover, we are concerned that the introduction of a union will not improve graduate education here, and that this will impede our ability to attract excellent graduate students.
“‘We view with concern rising tension and factionalism among GAs at UMass and SUNY, the consequence of internal conflicts between the students and their union leaders.
“‘Finally, we are mindful of the rancor and strike threats that have emerged at the University of California, recently unionized by the UAW.’
“It is for these reasons the University has opposed the unionization of its GAs, and it is for these reasons that we will continue our consultation with faculty before making a decision whether to appeal today’s ruling.”